An Outlook on Food and Nutrition Policy inside the Beltway
This week, NGA, alongside FMI, welcomed supermarket retailers, wholesalers, and food industry state association executives from across the nation to Washington, DC for the annual "Day in Washington" Supermarket Industry fly-in. The timing of the fly-in could not have been more relevant as the national debate on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) continues to unfold and Congress turns its focus to reauthorizing the Farm Bill.
In February of this year, the Trump administration released its Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal, which included drastic changes to the SNAP program by replacing about 40 percent of household SNAP benefits with a government run commodity box delivery service. Instead of letting households use their SNAP benefits at their local grocery store, SNAP funding would be used to send eligible households a box of non-perishable food items.
As soon as this “Harvest Box” proposal was released NGA’s government relations team hit the ground running, meeting with White House policy officials, USDA, and key stakeholders on Capitol Hill to express our opposition to any proposal that cuts out the private sector from food delivery.
While the President’s budget request officially kicks off the formal process and outlines many of the Administration’s priorities, Congress typically creates their own authorization bills. The Harvest Box proposal though is germane to the conversation as Congress is working on the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization.
Introduction of the House Farm Bill could come this week, and as Congress begins this process, NGA is working hard to ensure the voice of the independent supermarket industry is represented. In addition to fighting against the “Harvest Box” proposal, NGA’s priorities include strengthening the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program; preserving consumer choice in SNAP; and fighting fees on SNAP authorized retailers.
In addition to paying $70 billion a year in credit card interchange fees, retailers take on large equipment, compliance, and training expenses to participate in the SNAP program. Adding further costs would harm the ability of Main Street grocers to serve local communities and low-income populations.
Independents have been long partners with federal and state government entities in the SNAP food delivery system. Since the program’s inception, grocers have worked collaboratively with USDA, Congress, and industry partners to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the program. Additionally, grocers have supported bipartisan efforts to find common sense solutions to incentivize healthier eating and address the lack of food access in rural and urban areas.
On behalf of the independent supermarket industry, the team here at NGA looks forward to working with various stakeholders to strengthen the public-private partnership that has made SNAP a success.